What will happen to the Standards of Learning (SOLs) in Virginia when the CCSSI issues the Common Core standards?
The Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) is a voluntary, state-run effort, backed by the US Department of Education, to draft and implement a common core of grade level specific academic standards for Math and English in every public school in the nation. The effort is heralded as a bi-partisan initiative of the National Governor’s Association, with 48 states, two US territories, and the District of Columbia participating. Only Texas and Alaska have chosen not to participate.
The initiative requires that each participating state adopt and implement at least 85% of the “Common Core” grade level specific Math and English standards for use in public schools in their states. The US Department of Education, in establishing the rules by which the $4 billion in Race to the Top funds will be awarded, has given priority to states which agree to adopt the national Common Core standards. Several months ago Secretary Duncan released $350 million in Race to the Top funds to assist the initiative in developing a common national assessment to gauge how well states are teaching the Common Core standards to their students.
There’s one problem with this. The Common Core standards haven’t been written yet.
Let me repeat that, because it’s a very important point. Forty-eight states, 2 territories, and DC have agreed to adopt and implement in every public school in their state / territory / district academic standards for math and English which have not been written and they have not seen. Governor Kaine “signed” Virginia public schools up as full participants.
The CCSSI recently released its College and Career Readiness standards which, according to the group, “define the knowledge and skills students should have to be ready to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing, academic college courses and in workforce training programs.” Yet, the “College and Career Ready” English standards don’t meet the requirements for high school graduation in many Virginia school districts, and, the “College and Career Ready” Math standards fail to meet the minimum admission requirements for many 4-year colleges and Universities in the state.
For English, the “College and Career Ready” standards appear to be little more than a list of skills and reading strategies with no relation to content. For Math, the “College and Career Ready” standards describe the skills necessary to complete Algebra I and a few concepts associated with Geometry and Algebra II without regard to the minimum general entrance requirements for many state 4-year colleges and Universities and no mention of the additional skills and coursework necessary to enter Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs.
Admission to Virginia Tech, one of Virginia’s largest state Universities, requires all applicants to have completed Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II to be considered for general enrollment in any degree program. Some programs, like Engineering and Architecture, require additional math and science course work. Were Virginia to implement the “College and Career Ready” standards advocated by the CCSSI, no students educated in Virginia public schools would be eligible for admission to Virginia Tech.
The Common Core “grade level specific” standards are supposed to describe the knowledge and skills students must master at each grade level to achieve the “College and Career Ready” standards. In essence, the bar the Common Core standards will achieve is one set by the “College and Career Ready” standards. Yet the “College and Career Ready” standards are inadequate.
Virginia, under the rules set forth by the US Department of Education, must adopt and implement at least 85% of Common Core standards to receive priority in obtaining Race to the Top funds. If the Common Core standards meet the bar set by the “College and Career Ready” standards, and Virginia implements them, then students who graduate from Virginia public schools will be ineligible for admission to many 4-year colleges and Universities in the country.
The Common Core standards haven’t been issued, yet. They’re due out in January.
As it stands now, it appears that a national Common Core of grade level specific academic standards will be issued and implemented in almost every public school in the nation with a common national assessment along for the ride. Those standards may be inadequate to meet the current minimum entrance requirements at many colleges and Universities in this country, which means fewer public school kids will be going to college or colleges will be forced to drop their admission requirements. With budgets tight in states across the nation and $4 billion in federal incentives, there is a low probability that individual states will choose not to participate. Efforts to slow, or allow more room for feedback and concerns at the national level have been met with silence.
Two different sets of standards with two different assessments would be unmanageable. Unless Virginia chooses to withdraw from the CCSSI and forgo being given priority in receiving Race to the Top funds, the Common Core standards will serve as the foundation upon which our state standards are based.